Teachers looking for an alternative to the uninspiring prompt, “What did you do this summer?” can find motivation from two picture books: Dozens of Cousins by Shutta Crum and How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? by Jane Yolen. Students from elementary to middle school (and beyond) can listen to or independently read these stories and then share their responses. Even reluctant participants will have something to contribute, especially if the outcomes are optional – writing, drawing, sharing aloud; within varied groupings. Be sure to have at least one example of your own to share with your students. Here are some suggestions to add spark your students’ responses.
After reading Dozens of Cousins, say to your students:
- Select your favorite two-page spread and explain why you chose it. Share why you see yourself or a relative in the illustrations?
- Every gathering is different. Describe your favorite moment, when your family members get together. Add lots of details so we can know how you feel.
- What happened during your family reunion that caused you to laugh? Be sure to include lots of details so we can laugh too.
- Select an animal that best describes the actions of your family members, during a large gathering, and give examples. Feel free to use more than one animal.
After reading How Do Dinosaurs Go to School?, say to your students:
- What happened to you on your way to school? It could be today or another day that’s hard to forget. Either way, include the details so we can live in those moments too.
- Select your favorite two-page spread and explain why you chose it. Are you the dinosaur or someone else in the illustration? What else would you say or do?
- Why do you think the author chose dinosaurs? What would you have chosen? Redo the illustration with your choice.
- Tell us which of these dinosaurs best represents you. Researching the name may help. Be sure to include a similarity we can easily recognize and perhaps one that’s not as obvious.